Julia lay in bed rubbing her belly. She was smiling at the thought of life inside of her. She and Sam, her husband, had dreamed of a child together for as long as they’d been a couple. Then the smile left her face. Something wasn’t right. She’d felt it the moment she woke up. She felt empty.
For months, Sam had been leaving early for work. He wanted to get as much overtime pay as possible before the baby came. Julia wanted to call him, to tell him her concern, but she didn’t want to be a bother. What if she was wrong? She didn’t want to waste his time. Besides, he would’ve gotten worried and rushed home to do whatever she needed. Sam was a good man like that. No, she wouldn’t call him. It would be too much of a headache.
Julia called her mother instead. After all, her mother had been pregnant before. She would know why Julia didn’t feel right. Hopefully.
“Hey, Jules,” her mother said after picking up the line.
“Hey, Mom,” Julia replied. She did her best not to sound upset. It didn’t work.
“What’s wrong? Is it the baby?”
“Yeah,” Julia sputtered, trying to hold back tears.
“It’s okay,” her mother said. “Tell me what’s going on.”
Julia told her everything. How she’d felt when she woke up. How she didn’t want to bother Sam at work. How she felt helpless. How she felt alone. How badly she wanted the baby out…
Her mother interrupted. “Honey.”
Julia whimpered. “What?”
“It’s all right,” she said. “Calm down. Take a deep breath. Can you do that for me?”
Her mother listened as Julia breathed. She marveled at the woman her little girl had become. She was glad that she still needed “mommy” sometimes, though. “Take another breath,” she said.
Julia obeyed. She pulled air through her nose and then released it through her mouth, just like they’d taught her in class.
“I feel better,” Julia replied, nodding even though her mother couldn’t see her.
“Good,” her mother said. “Keep breathing. I want to say something.”
Her mother took a deep breath of her own. “Now, calling Sam would not bother him. If I know him like I think I do, he’d want to hear from you. I understand why you think you shouldn’t, but I think you should. I understand why you feel helpless, too. It’s natural. It’s all part of the process. In some ways, you are helpless. It gets worse when your child becomes a teenager. Be ready for that.”
Julia knew her mother was talking about her. She hadn’t been the easiest teenager to raise. She had been one of those tweens who used words like “independent” and phrases like “free spirit” and “gypsy soul,” never truly understanding what they meant.
“You aren’t alone,” her mother continued. “I know it feels like it. It’ll feel that way more often after the baby arrives. Let Sam help you; talk to him. You know I’ll come whenever you need me. Me and your daddy. You’ve got friends, too. We’re all here if you need us. When my mother reminded me of all the love around it made me feel better. I hope it helps you.” Her mother smiled to herself. “Sweetheart, that beautiful baby is going to come soon enough. Don’t rush it. Enjoy it. Your life will change in so many ways, but not a single one of them bad.”
Everything her mother said was true. Julia couldn’t argue or deny it. It helped. She still felt uneasy, but a little better all the same. She was even smiling, and crying, of course. Her mother was lovely. She was beyond grateful to have her.
“Do you need me to come over and do anything?”
“I’m good,” Julia replied. “Thank you. You’ve helped more than you know. I’ll call Sam. If I can’t reach him, will you take me to the doctor?”
“Of course, love. Just give it a couple of hours. That’s what the nurse said, right? If you haven’t felt anything for 2 hours to call?”
“Yeah, she did say that. I’ll get up and move around. Maybe the baby’s asleep.”
“Good idea. Get up and eat something. See how that makes you feel.”
“Anytime, honey. I love you.”
“Love you, too.”
Julia put the phone on the nightstand. Swinging her legs out of bed, she pushed herself up and stood. It made her happy that she got up on her first try. She took a shower, got dressed, and then went downstairs for breakfast.
The first meal of the day was her favorite part of the day. Sam was gone which made it easier to feed her cravings without being picked on. JIF peanut butter and warm tomato soup was on the menu. At one point she dipped a spoonful of peanut butter into the soup. “Not bad,” she mumbled. She did a little shimmy and dipped the peanut butter into the soup again…and again…and again.
Worry was beginning to creep back in. She still hadn’t felt the baby move. It had been an hour since she hung up with her mother. She did her breathing and quieted herself. “Calm down, Julia,” she said aloud. “One more hour. Nothing to worry about.” Deep breath. Release. “One more hour.”
Sam picked up on the first ring. It was perfect timing. He had just gotten back to his desk. “Everything okay?” he asked.
“Fine, fine,” Julia said.
She told him about the bad feeling she was having. He said something about how he should’ve spent the money on the home-monitoring kit the doctor had suggested. Cursing himself, he apologized for being a tightwad. Sam told her he’d be home shortly and that his boss would understand. And if his boss didn’t understand, then he’d have to get over it.
“Don’t lose your job over this,” she told him.
“I won’t,” he assured her. “His wife is pregnant, too, remember? He knows the drill.”
Sam was already getting in the car when he hung up with Julia.
He had told her that a mother’s intuition was worth more than waiting another hour and that he was taking her straight to the doctor. But her worry had become worse. Was it depression? She knew what that felt like, having struggled with it for so many years already. That was different. This was something else. She felt it in her bones. No. Deeper. She felt it in her soul.
Something wasn’t right.
Fresh air! That’s what she needed! Of course!
Julia walked outside to the front yard. It was a crisp, early fall day. The sun was high in the sky. Standing still and enjoying the breeze, she performed her breathing exercise. She pulled in the natural scents and pushed out the stress. That’s all this is, she told herself. Just stress. Nature is the cure for that.
It was still there.
Julia looked around. She hoped to see one of the neighboring mothers pushing a stroller. Maybe she could pick her brain about it.
There were none. In any direction.
She only saw a boy. He was small with blond hair and maybe six or seven. And he was walking down the sidewalk, coming straight toward her.
The sight of him wasn’t anything odd in her neighborhood. Kids were everywhere most days. That was one of the reasons they had moved there. Good schools and young families were an easy sell.
It was strange to see him, though. She’d never seen him before. No new families had moved in nearby. The fact that he was staring straight at her belly was even stranger.
Instinctively, she wrapped her arms around her stomach.
The boy stopped. He smiled. A toothless grin. He didn’t speak. His blue eyes were penetrating. He continued a few more steps forward until he was right in front of her.
Julia grinned back.
The boy looked at her belly, then back into her eyes.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” she said. “I’d let you feel, but the baby’s not kicking today. The baby’s not doing much of anything actually.”
He stopped grinning. The boys features became placid. With a shrug, he raised his eyebrows.
“Here,” she said, holding out her hand for his. She put his hand on her belly. “Feel anything?” He shook his head. “Me neither,” she whispered.
The boy raised his other hand and placed it on the other side of her belly. He didn’t look at her. He shook his head instead. Placing his ear gently onto her stomach, he lingered there a moment.
When he pulled away he wore a face deep in concentration.
The boy placed both of his hands side by side, palms flat, on her belly. Then he closed his eyes.
“What-” she began.
“Shh…” he whispered.
As he slid his hands to opposite sides of her stomach, it began to to glow an ethereal blue.
A few seconds had passed when the blue of her stomach turned transparent. She could see through it to the ground.
Julia watched the boy. She watched him open his eyes and stare into her womb. Over time his face went from intense concentration back to placid.
He looked up at her. A smile graced his face.
“What did you see?” she whispered.
The boy slid his hands back together, the transparency returning to blue and then to the pistachio color of her shirt. He hugged her belly.
Julia hugged him with tears flowing down her cheeks.
After they released, he turned without a word and headed back up the sidewalk.
Sam ran to her side. She hadn’t even noticed him pull in the driveway. “Who was that?” he asked, leading her gently to the car.
Julia looked at her husband, her tears already drying on her skin. “I think…” Then, “Nevermind. Let’s go.” She was beaming.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
She flumped into her seat. “I’m perfect,” she said. “And so are you. And so is our son.”
As they drove away, Julia didn’t look for the boy. She knew he was gone.